Apparatus Synapse

2016 | Color | HD video | 16:00


Apparatus Synapse explores attention, distraction and presence through the vehicle of human subject neuroscience experiments. A series of individuals are viewed as they feed data into machines under demanding conditions in which they are often heavily tasked. The camera is set up and framed with careful intent, then left alone with the subject in the cramped environment of the laboratory. In the film, this becomes an oddly intimate setting.

The experiments themselves measure ongoing brain activity that is quantifiable in space and time. The images in the film, on the other hand, are pure and somewhat anonymous encounters between camera and subject in an environment in which a camera is but one of many recording devices.

The film’s soundscape is interspersed with diegetic and non-diegetic sound, at times imparting intimacy and at other times allowing the image to float in an imaginary aural space. Small vocal fragments drift in and out, including insights from the scientists who conduct such experiments as well as excerpts of audio that is sometimes used in the experiments themselves to lead, confound or distract the subjects.

In my previous films exploring surveillance, sousveillance and lingering presence, the camera’s close acts of observation chart an ambiguous reckoning between seeing and being observed. In Apparatus Synapse, the proximity of the camera allows the images to convey the rhythm, patterns and shifting nature of thinking and reacting, mirroring the synapses and neural pathways of the brain.

Thanks to:

Dr. Elika Bergelson, Formerly Research Assistant Professor in the Brain & Cognitive Sciences Department, University of Rochester, now Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University.

Dr. Mary Cummings, Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, Director of the Humans and Autonomy Lab, Duke University.

Dr. Lauren Emberson, Assistant Professor, Princeton University Department of Psychology, Co-Director Princeton Baby Lab.

Dr. Elizabeth Johnson, Executive Director & Senior Fellow, Wharton Neuroscience Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Mark Lescroart, Research Scientist, Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, Gallant Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley.